On December 3, the Latin American Medicine Day *, it’s necessary to make a brief summary of Cuba's solidarity in health, a principle the Revolution put into practice since its early days. Let’s recall the aid to Chile, when the earthquake of 1960 hit, and the arrival in Algeria with a small group of professionals in 1962.
Since then, this small island is an example in medical assistance to other nations, not just providing humanitarian aid, at key moments of natural disasters, or outbreaks, but in the building of hospitals, training of professionals and teachers of different specialties.
During these years, solidarity in this field has been present in 164 countries and today it’s kept in more than 60 countries with about 30 thousand employees.
The support given to Africa in 2014 was an unprecedented event. Back then the continent was hit by a severe cholera epidemic and, in response to the call of the UN and the World Health Organization, the Cuban government sent a contingent of 250 specialists to several countries, where the threat of infection and death were real.
An element that contributed a lot to the collaboration has been the International Contingent of Doctors Specialized in Disaster Situations and Serious Epidemics Henry Reeve, constituted on September 19th, 2005 by the historical leader of the Cuban Revolution Fidel Castro. Henry Reeves Contingent has been present in 21 countries with 24 medical brigades.
In this battle for health, the Miracle Mission, an ophthalmological program, led by the governments of Cuba and Venezuela which in its 15 years has treated almost 4 million patients in 16 countries, at present only 10 remains.
Domestically, Cuba has created an infrastructure to guarantee public health, with strong support for the primary care with the implementation - since January 1984 - of the Family Doctor-and-Nurse Program, with the objective of attending to people, families and communities.
The Family Doctor-and-Nurse Program, even with imperfections, has had a favorable impact on health indicators of Cubans.
This has allowed to guarantee a total coverage of health care, with a total of 10,869 Doctor-and-Nurse offices, and 449 polyclinics.
Although not all goals have been achieved regarding this Program, the Ministry of Public Health has currently implemented a plan for its improvement, and is worth mentioning that in more than three decades it has played a key role in the improvement of health of the population.
Cuba allots the 27% of its budget to Health and Social Assistance, and around 11% of its GDP. Therefore, its figures behave similarly to developed countries.
In Cuba 14 infectious diseases have been eliminated; the infant mortality rate remains below five deaths under one year per thousand live births, and life expectancy at birth is 78, 45 years in general: 80 years for women and 76 for men.
The country has 84.8 doctors and 16.8 dentists for every 10 thousand inhabitants.
The National Health System comprises 150 hospitals, 110 IC wards, 120 municipal intensive wards, 449 polyclinics, 111 dentist clinics, 131 maternity homes, 12 research institutes, 690 medical libraries, 155 nursing homes, 293 elder homes, 52 geriatric services, and 30 psychopedagogical medical centers.
Such data are a pride; unthinkable achievements before 1959, which have only been possible through the political will of our sovereign State. For all the above mentioned, the country has enough reasons to celebrate the Latin American Medicine Day, not with slogans, but with tangible results.
The political will of the Cuban State and, especially, of its historical leader Fidel Castro Ruz, have made these achievements of our public health possible, an example for many regions of the planet.
* Date established in honor of the birth of the renowned Cuban scientist Dr. Carlos Juan Finlay, who discovered that yellow fever was transmitted by the Aedes Aegypti mosquito. His example is a beacon for those who just like him, devote their lives to research, to fight diseases, and to make medical care a daily right.